Why South Korean Companies Are Forcing Workers to Attend Their Own Pretend Funerals

Why South Korean Companies Are Forcing Workers to Attend Their Own Pretend Funerals

Life can be very stressful. And living in South Korea, it can be so stressful that CEOs in the country are forcing workers to attend their own pretend funerals.

What? Yes. Come in to work, pull up a coffin and attend your own mock good-bye. Delightful.

Why are executives-in-charge actually thinking this is a good practice for their employees? The logic and lack of compassion around the issue remains a mystery, but some facts point to why it is being done.

Sadly, South Korea experiences the highest suicide rate in the industrialized world.

According to a recent report on bbc.com, the Korean Neuropsychiatric Association has found that a quarter of people with high stress levels in South Korea cite problems at work as a primary cause of their stress.

korean workplace coffins


And given South Korea’s strong practice of speak-no-evil, hear-no-evil with regards to the workplace, it’s likely that there are many more people experiencing high stress levels than reported.

So, in response, companies have decided they need to remind workers of the value of their life.

But is a fake funeral the way to do it?

The bizarre practice is being touted to the workplace as a bonding exercise by employers.

Here’s how it happens, according to a report on bbc.com. Employees attend a workshop held by a ‘fake funeral’ company, and those participating are asked to sit down and write final good-bye letters to their friends and family.

Participants are reported to routinely break down sobbing.

The men, (usually men), are then shown ‘inspirational videos’ of people triumphing over adversity, for example, cancer patients staying positive in their final moments, or someone without limbs learning to master a new sport.

Before the workshop is over, participants are instructed to enter their ‘own’ coffin and close the lid, giving them “time to reflect on life.”


A valuable experience? Critics see the practice as something that is likely more than enough to push someone on the edge of mental stability further into their depression than help them to rise out of it.

But whether or not the rituals are actually doing good or bad remains to be seen.

Cho Yong-tae commented on his participation in the dark ritual.

“After the coffin experience, I realized I should try to live a new style of life,” he is quoted as saying on bbc.com. “I’ve realized I’ve made lots of mistakes. I hope to be more passionate in all the work I do and spend more time with my family.”

Is this true passion or a fabricated statement being made to save face in the workplace? It’s hard to say. South Korea can be a complicated place.

Perhaps some funding from employers towards personal counseling for those deemed to be at risk of depression or suicidal may be more effective. But hey, maybe a fake funeral is just what we all need. But it seems more likely that some time off to spend with the friends and family who love them will help these overworked souls a little more.



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